‘Why I Paint the Way I Paint’

In this excerpt from his 1960 autobiography, My Adventures as an Illustrator, Rockwell offers a fascinating and utterly candid glimpse of his life and work

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Tattoo Artist, March 6, 1944.
© SEPS

When I was 10 years old, a skinny kid with a long neck and narrow shoulders, I wanted to be a weight lifter. So I began a program of exercises to strengthen myself. Every morning I would do pushups, deep knee bends, jumping jacks, and the like before my bedroom mirror. After a month or so, unable to detect any improvement, I gave up. Instead of becoming a weight lifter, I decided to fall back on what seemed to be my only talent — drawing. And here I am, 56 years later, still drawing.

Every so often, usually when I’m having trouble with a picture, I spread on my studio floor reproductions of the 306 Post covers I have painted since 1916, walk around them, and try to decide whether my work has progressed through all those years. If it hasn’t, I say to myself, I’m washed up.

I never seem able to decide whether my work has improved, because my memories keep intruding. Looking at all those covers, I recall their history: the models I used, the trouble I had getting the original idea, how the public reacted.

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